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Employee Personal Information Should Remain Private

Updated on November 14, 2017
Patrick Patrick profile image

Patrick has been working as a freelance writer for the past 3 years

Employee monitoring


In the Chapter entitled “Social Network Exploitation”, Mark Andrejevic introduces the reader to a new type of monitoring that is sneakier and not likely to result in a lawsuit. There have been instances where job applicants have been asked for their social media password as one of the conditions for hire. However, this has proved significantly controversial, in that it violates privacy. However, by collecting employee’s data without their knowledge, they are likely to achieve more using such data without much resistance and problems. In this era of commercial social networking, data and information are particularly valuable, and a majority of companies will use them to attract more potential buyers. According to Andrejevic, social media (and thus social network data) has become such an important marketing platform that for some of the companies, it has become a means of unknowingly competing for employment. In this case, potential employees with the biggest online social networks are highly preferred due to the fact that they are viewed as sources of viral marketing. For this reason, they are highly valuable to the company. Although this may allow an individual to get employment, which is therefore beneficial to a potential employee, it still amounts to a violation of privacy given that the individual is exploited without their knowledge or even a subjective feeling of being exploited.

Andrejevic and like minded individuals highly criticize the harnessing of user’s uncompensated productivity. Although they may not be aware of this, or may not consider as this being a form of exploitation, users have the right to be compensated if their data is to be used for capital accumulation. In this case, Andrejevic points out that with the social data and information being used without the knowledge of employees, or even with them knowing and not complaining, they are ultimately alienated from their from what may be regarded as their labor. Here, they are alienated from the productive process as well as the produce they themselves created, which is used by others for capital gain.

Andrejevic goes on to show how the social media commodifies free labor through the proprietary terms of service agreement. This, he explains, strips the users of their intellectual rights. In addition, with surveillance of tastes and preferences, the social media also tends to convert data from users in to cybernetic commodities that can eventually be sold to third-party marketers. This makes users free laborers given that they are not compensated for any of their data, which is actually their work, which amounts to exploitation.Through terms of service agreements, users are stripped of their intellectual property rights given that what they share can go on to be used for marketing purposes that may not benefit them.



Exploitation in his case may be described as the extraction of unpaid, coerced as well as alienated labor. Although an employee, or potential employee may not be physically forced in to allowing for their data to be used, when it is used as a bargaining chip for them to get some type of employment is a form of coercion in itself. Terms of service agreements allow for this to prevail, and thus make it possible for others to exploit those who are vulnerable. Given that it tends to take away the intellectual property rights of a user, those who value such data, and can see its monetary value will be at liberty to use it in ways that are beneficial to them. Today more than ever, users are increasingly complaining of their material being used by many other personnel on social media. With vast amounts of data and information being generated by users on a daily basis, marketers are finding it easier to get promotional content from these data as well as countless users to advertise to. This only means a win on their part, but not for users who generated such data. Terms of service agreement make it difficult for users to take any appropriate actions, and thus contribute in their exploitation.

As Andrejevic points out, users may lack a subjective feeling of being exploited. This is true for a majority of the users, who may be a little concerned, but may not care much for it. This encourages the continued exploitation of users since those who exploit them understand the provisions created by the terms of service agreements. For a majority of social networks, there is little regulation on how information can be shared, given that a piece of data generated can find itself being shared to millions of other uses within hours. This creates a particularly good avenue for advertisers, who are likely to continue exploiting users due to the effective nature of social networks as a platform for marketing.


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